Sunday Photo Fiction – Sharing

Sunrise coming through the clouds. Of course, in your fiction, it could be absolutely anything

Copyright – Al Forbes

Read the rules and submit your own story based on the prompt here. I’ve actually started writing up a new novel. This isn’t an extract, but it’s a short segment based on another character’s point of view.

She never smiled. I only noticed it after a couple of weeks of knowing her. It wasn’t obvious straight away. She didn’t give off this vibe of being completely miserable or anything like that. It was more like there was always a little part of her that was dwelling on something else.

I guess I really wanted to fix her. I was arrogant enough to think I could just talk to her and she’d suddenly open up. I imagined her smiling, and I thought it would be like the clouds suddenly parting and the sun shining through, or a similar cliché.

It never happened. I took every opportunity to be alone with her, and I asked her a million questions. I wanted to know about her home, her family, and why she’d come to the academy. Her answers were always half-hearted and she didn’t look me in the eye. Eventually she began avoiding me altogether.

Years later, when I found out the unremarkable truth, I wondered why she’d been so reluctant.

In another few years, the issue of what truths are better left unshared would almost tear our marriage apart.


Friday Fictioneers – Unstable

I’m sure you’ve all missed me over the Christmas break (*tumbleweed*) but I’m back with a Friday Fictioneers submission. If you’d like to submit your own story based on the picture, click here.

The stone crumbles beneath my fingertips, leaving dirty smears across my palms. I look up to see a house which should have been abandoned long ago, but you’re still there, staring at me sadly through the hole where the window should be. I see her clinging onto you. I see her tears. I see her mouthing her name for me.


She doesn’t understand that the waves of time decayed this place before I arrived, made the foundation so weak the whole thing could topple with one push.

 I place my hands against the rock and call out my final warning.

The Library Book Project – 26 August 2010

To read more about this project, click here.

Hannah reclines on the sofa, one hand holding the TV remote, the other diving into a packet of crisps. She gives me smug grin.

“Hope you guys have fun!”

I mumble something before backing out of the lounge door and greeting our three children, who are supposed to be putting on their shoes. Ben and Tom are too busy shoving each other to dig their footwear out of the jumble by the door.  Kaitlyn, the oldest, sucks in her cheeks and directs a baleful look at me with her brown eyes.

“Can’t I stay behind with Mum?” she pleads.

“No.” I say, firmly. “We’re going to the museum, just me, you and your brothers. And then, if you’re all good,” I raise my voice slightly so the boys can hear me, “We’ll get some ice cream or something, how does that sound?”

“Yeah! Ice cream!” the boys chant together, distracted momentarily from their tussle. Kaitlyn’s demeanor brightens.

“But only if you get your shoes on right now, no fuss!”

Ten minutes later we’re walking up the hill, and I’m feeling more sympathetic towards my wife with every step. She works from home, but the last few summers I’ve managed to get time off to help her out during the school holidays. This year, things were harder, and so I can only take the kids off her hands on the weekends.

On the way through the town centre, I drop off my library book, and then we head towards the museum. Hannah was doubtful that the kids would particularly enjoy a contemporary art exhibit, but I insisted it was never too early to start exposing our children to modern art. I showed her the exhibit online. It was a collection of photographs by Diane Arbus. Hannah made a face, which caused me to be all the more determined.

It’s not until I stand in the museum’s entrance, the sound of my rowdy children the only audible noise, that I begin to wonder if this is a good idea…

The Library Book Project – 24 August 2009

For more information about this project, click here.

“Thanks again for doing this for me.” I coo.

“No problem. It’ll only take another couple of minutes.” Brian replies, as he rummages through his toolbox

“Do you want a drink? Juice? Tea?”

“A mug of tea, would be perfect, thanks.”

I shuffle to the kitchen in my slippers, impressed by how clean the place looks. I became bored of the book I was reading, so I gave the place a thorough scrubbing. Before I retired, stacks of dog-eared papers would lie in every corner, and crumbs would moulder between appliciances. I was never a houseproud kind of woman, and Kenneth would roll his eyes if I so much as suggested he do any housework. Kenneth was a good man in many ways, but he certainly had some traditional views about men and women. He wouldn’t be seen dead in a pair of washing up gloves.

Of course, if he were still around, I wouldn’t have to ask Brian to put up the mirror for me. He would have done it in a second. Kenneth took pride in being the ultimate handiman. There was nothing he couldn’t stick, fix or make better. Well. Apart from himself. I pause for a moment before pulling a teabag out of the jar, wondering if I could have said something that would actually have made a difference. No, I decide.

After that first heart attack, I begged and I pleaded. “Let’s go for a walk, get some exercise.” I’d suggest. He’d always grumble, saying that he was watching something on the telly. I tried cutting out red meat, all the things the doctor suggested. He’d get angry, saying he was hungry and he wasn’t going to eat this slop. What was I to do? In the end, it was his body. Those kind of thoughts didn’t make the funeral easier, though.

I walk back to Brian with his mug of tea. The mirror is on the wall, and we stand next to each other and both stare into it. He gazes at my reflection, and I smile like a self-conscious teenager. I loved Kenneth with all my heart, but he had his flaws, bless him. I don’t feel guilty about thinking that and I don’t feel guilty when I have thoughts of Brian. There’s a difference between replacing someone and letting someone else take the empty place they left behind.

The Library Book Project – 27 July 2009

To read more about the project, click here.

I try not to look across the crowded hall. Many of them will be sitting and eating, but some will be staring up at the top table, hoping to get a glimpse of the happy couple. Until I woke up this morning, I was under the impression that I’d float through today on a cloud of love and bliss. I expected to transcend above everything but the thoughts of my new husband, and how happy we’d be. In truth, there are moments I’m slightly bogged down with anxiety. I worry about the food, what people think of my dress, all the photos. The list of things that can go wrong is endless.

I feel this absolute joy when I look at him, knowing we’ve made this pact to stick together for the rest of our lives. I was nervous this morning. It wasn’t about marrying him, I knew that was the best decision I could ever have made. When he bent down on one knee all those months ago, I felt like my stomach was being vacuumed out of my torso. “Yes!” didn’t feel like a good enough answer. It didn’t convey that I was past wanting him. I knew that without him, my life would feel so empty.

The nerves were more about the fact everybody would be watching me, all day. This is the person who broke down with stage fright as a little girl during her school nativity. I was playing the role of a sheep. It was a non-speaking part. Walking up the aisle this morning was terrifying, and only the prospect of being next to John calmed me enough to get me through the wall of stares.

To my left, Kathy sips her drink. I smile at her, and she smiles back. It doesn’t comfort me after overhearing her conversation a couple of nights ago. Me, John, Kathy and Greg, (John’s best man,) were sat in our front room, preparing the centrepieces. We finally finished, and got stuck into some bottles of white wine we had in the fridge. John was on a night shift, so he turned down the wine and left for work. I went to the kitchen to collect the library book I’d asked Kathy to return for me while I was on my honeymoon. When I returned, I could hear Kathy talking through the door.

  “So, I feel like I’m the only one now. It’s so crazy, just a bit of paper really, but it makes such a difference… You do feel like you’re suddenly less important.” I heard Greg mumble something in reply. “Of course I’m happy for her. Overjoyed, she deserves him. They’re great together. But I’m allowed to feel a little sorry for myself, aren’t I? I mean, it’s the 21st Century, I’m 27, and yet I feel like Bridget Jones. Seriously,  I thought society was past this, but I feel totally invisible.”

I quitely tiptoed up the stairs, then loudly bounced down them to make my prescence known. When I came through the door, both Greg and Kathy were giving me false grins.

I turn back to John and he notices my expression.

“Is everything okay?” he asks. I reply that everything is fine and tell him I’m terrified of something getting spilt on my dress. He laughs, and I take a moment to silently adore him. This is our day. Noone else matters. But, I think of Kathy and wonder if it’s that kind of attitude she’s unhappy about.

The Library Book Project – 8 October 2008

To read more about this project, click here.

I look at the images blu-tacked to the blackboard and all of a sudden, my body seems to rebel. Not visibly, but my chest feels like it’s caving in, my guts tighten and contract, and there’s a buzzing sensation in my legs that precedes numbness. The pictures depict a happy bride and groom, glowing with love that’s pure and guilt-free. Something I’ve thrown away. My teacher blathers on about how we all must keep ourselves pure and worthy, so we can marry the right kind of man.

They say that priesthood holders can discern the truth, so do they know the truth about me? When they see me in the corridors between classes, are they disgusted because they know how I’ve dirtied myself? They still smile and nod their heads at me, but is it out of pity? I try not to think about it as I walk around the building on a Sunday. Sometimes I can really pretend that I’m still the same person that I was. I kid myself that I’m still whole.

But I’m not. I can’t even confess to the little things. I lied to my parents about going to the library. Well, not completely, I still went sometimes. But most of the time I was going to his house. We were often alone in his room, just like they always warned that you shouldn’t. I reasoned it was okay. None of my friends obey all the rules, and they seem happy. I could control myself, after all. We were alone so many times before that one afternoon, nothing happened, and I didn’t understand what all the fuss was about. Everything was fine, until it wasn’t.

I didn’t really feel all that I’d changed, but I know that I must be different, somehow. They say it’s almost as bad as murder.

Looking at the library book I borrowed last reminds me of the fibs. I end up crying into the pages.

The Library Book Project – 22 March 2008

For more information on this project, click here.

The blue-grey headache is starting to impose itself upon me again. Painkillers will only make me drowsier, but I’m still tempted. In front of me, on the screen, is yet another of these personality questionnaires. What happened to the good old days, where you sent in a CV and if they liked it, they called you for an interview? Now you type your details, over and over again, into little boxes. If you’re lucky, the autofill facility does some of the work for you.

Pick an option: A, B, C or D. One of them tells us you might have the right attitude for this organization. The rest direct you to the online rejection basket. It’s almost as if I’m part of some sadistic game, as if I’m trying to win my life back with chance. The possibility of success is so tiny, I can’t even see it. I’m filling out details for the sake of filling out details, almost like I’m back at work.

Of course, the big difference is that I was paid to work. It was almost as mundane as this, but at least I didn’t feel like a failure. I was supporting my family. Now, my wife picks up all the extra hours she can so we don’t have to sell the house, but we’ve had to sell the car. We didn’t have a holiday this year. “It could be worse,” Louise says to me. She says she doesn’t care, but there’s a darkness under her eyes and a sag to her smile that wasn’t there before I was made redundant.

She never yelled, or cried. She’s never said a word about missing the restaurant trips we used to take, or the holiday we had to skip. She helped me put the car up for sale. Her face is always calm and impassive when we’ve discussed our financial issues. She never complains about her extra hours, but before we hit this mess, she used to talk about how much she hated her job, and I know she’s tired.

I want to shake her and ask her how she really feels. I want her to shout at me, tell me how much I’ve let her down. I want to get down on my knees and cry, and tell her how sorry I am that this has happened.  I love you, I would say, and I swear to you, I am doing my best to get things back to the way they were. I feel that her unwavering support swings the balance even closer to the tipping point, and I know she deserves better.

I try to focus on the screen, but after a couple of minutes, I absent-mindedly pick up the library book I borrowed. Its scenes remind me of things that happened in my old office, but oddly, it still acts as an escape from this reality, like all the books I read. I regretfully place the book back on my desk. I don’t have time to waste browsing someone else’s imagination.

Photo Prompt – Numb


So, this week I’m working from a photo I took myself. It’s not great quality, but I guess it’s more there for inspiration than for aesthetic effect. Feel free to use it yourself as long as you link it back to this blog.


Karen tripped over her dress as she walked along the icy fields. She needed a place to hide. Anywhere. She spotted a path surrounded by tall, orange hedges and stumbled down it. Both her mind and vision were fogged. They would be looking for her. Or would they just carry on without the maid of honour? She chucked the flowers against the bushes and pulled her tiny sleeveless jacket across her chest. The January air slowly penetrated her to the bone.

Karen decided the cold would be her punishment and her cure. She took off the jacket and laid on the frozen grass, hoping it would numb her diseased heart as effectively as it numbed her skin.